Even the most die-hard of "American Idol" cheerleaders would surely have to admit that the hit reality show experienced a downturn last season. Above and beyond the steady drop-off in viewership, the competition suffered from a lack of compelling talent.
Season 10, which debuts Wednesday night (January 19), is seeking to remedy that deficiency, introducing multiple rule and format changes. Expectations are high among fans and "Idol" insiders. But perhaps the person with the highest expectations of all is Randy Jackson. The veteran judge is looking to find a once-in-a-generation artist who will fundamentally alter the pop-culture landscape.
"I hope that 'Idol' finds a killer vocalist that helps to change music completely," Jackson told MTV News in a recent interview. "Michael Jackson and Prince just slaughtered the business. Elvis slaughtered the business. I can't remember a time when someone was that important in the history of the game of music."
OK, so expectations are not merely high, but possibly out of this world. Randy went on to mention a few other acts — Madonna, Coldplay, U2, Jay-Z, Biggie and Tupac — who also have had a transformative effect on artistry and culture. Even the biggest winners in "Idol" history, like Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood, cannot lay claim to such comprehensive influence. Yet it seems that it's a Madonna or an MJ that Randy is hoping to find, rather than a Clarkson or an Underwood.
"No one has come in and changed the game, meaning that as soon as they showed up ... everyone was dressing, acting and wanted to be them, full stop," he explained. "I hope that we find that quintessential star."
Ultimately, though, whatever a singer's vocal talent level truly is, success comes down to the quality of an artist's material. "You can be the best singer in the world, and if you don't have that great song, guess what? They're not going to buy it," Jackson explained. "It's like having bad salt at the table. If it's not good, people just won't use it."
Don't miss our "American Idol" live stream "Judging the Judges: An 'Idol' Without Simon," featuring post-show analysis from Jim Cantiello and special guests, on MTV.com tonight at 10 p.m. ET. Tweet your "Idol" commentary with the hashtag #idolwithoutsimon, and we could quote you on the show!
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